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Attendance zones complex for good reason

The maps of potential attendance boundaries for Medford’s middle schools are out, and they illustrate just how complex a process it is to draw an attendance area for a third middle school. We don’t envy the committee charged with the task or the Medford School Board members who must make a final decision at the end of a lengthy process.

The new boundaries are the result of the district’s decision to convert the former Central Medford High School into a third middle school to be called Oakdale Middle School. The new school will draw some students from the attendance area of McLoughlin Middle School and some from Hedrick Middle School.

The four scenarios prepared by the committee are available for viewing on the District 549c website, www.medford.k12.or.us/. None is final; the district could settle on one of them, or a modification of one or more. The existing attendance zones of Hedrick and McLoughlin are also there for comparison.

At first glance, three of the four scenarios seem unnecessarily complex, with attendance boundaries that hop around. Scenario B, for instance, would have students from Ruch Elementary School feeding into Oakdale, while Jacksonville and Griffin Creek students would head to McLoughlin. Oak Grove would feed into Oakdale under that scenario, along with Washington, Jefferson and Hoover.

The complexity is easier to understand when you stop to consider the priorities that led to the map. The same considerations governed all four scenarios:

  • A reasonably equal number of students in each middle school.
  • Continuity of feeder patterns, so cohorts of students stay intact as much as possible, meaning students from one elementary school would all move on to the same middle school.
  • Equitable student populations and opportunities at each school.
  • Opportunity for the community to be heard throughout the process.

Each scenario on the district website is accompanied by a demographic breakdown, with pie charts showing the gender, race and economic makeup of each middle school’s student body.

The simplest maps, with contiguous attendance areas, are the existing Hedrick-McLouglin zones and Scenario T2. But those also reflect the greatest economic disparity.

Under the existing zones, 71.55% of McLoughlin students are in poverty, while the percentage of Hedrick students in poverty is 42.63%.

Under Scenario T2, McLoughlin would have 82% of students in poverty, compared with 63.4% at Oakdale and 51.7% at Hedrick. The other three scenarios even out those numbers somewhat, although McLoughlin still leads the pack in each proposal.

Evening out those demographic characteristics, while keeping cohorts together and making the populations of each middle school as equal as possible led to some interesting maps. In two of the scenarios, the attendance boundary between North and South Medford high schools is also tweaked a bit

One public session to present this information was held last week at Oak Grove Elementary School. Three more will be held at Griffin Creek, Lone Pine and Howard in the coming weeks. It is essential for interested parents and community members to attend these, or look up the scenarios online and make their views known. The committee will take all comments into consideration before making a recommendation to the School Board on May 5.

We commend the district and the committee members for the hard work they have and will devote to this important task, and for the district’s efforts to make the process as transparent as possible.